Visions shared at annual State of the Cities luncheon in Kennewick

Tri-City HeraldMay 28, 2014 

The mayors of West Richland, Richland, Pasco and Kennewick shared their visions of the future Wednesday at the annual "State of the Cities" luncheon.

The event, presented by the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, was attended by more than 400 business and community leaders

The theme was pooling resources and working together. An amusing, yet informative video highlighted some of the common goals shared by the four cities.

"The four are distinctive, yet all share common goals of economic stability and growth," said Rene Vasquez, chairman of the chamber board.

Some projects, like the Hanford Reach Interpretative Center, animal control and a consolidated 911 dispatch center require a regional approach to get done, Vasquez said.

"There are a lot of challenges ahead but we're all committed to make the Tri-Cities the best place to live, work and play," Vasquez said.

Don Britain, Kennewick's mayor pro tem, said a top priority for the city is getting the final phase of Steptoe Street completed, which will create a link between Highway 240 and Highway 395.

Kennewick is also working with the Port of Kennewick to improve the waterfront area between the cable and blue bridges, Britain said. Other projects in that area include extending the nature trail around Duffy's Pond, expanding the availability of public parking, improving the street scape on Columbia Drive, and building a winery effluent pre-treatment facility.

The goal is to have the first building for a boutique winery ready by the fall of 2015, Britain said.

In Pasco, industrial development is a top goal, said Mayor Matt Watkins.

Watkins expects to see a significant increase in the city's assessed valuation over the next couple of years, he said. In 2007 it was slightly more than $2 million, this year it's $3.6 million.

"That translates into jobs, funding for schools and other development," Watkins said.

Pasco projects include replacing the underpass at Lewis Street with an overpass linking the two halves of the city, Watkins said.

Also in the works are a new police facility -- hopefully to begin construction next year -- and new signals and access roads along Road 68 to improve traffic flow.

Richland is building a new fire station in the Queensgate/Duportail area, extending Stevens Drive, and adding a bridge over the Yakima River at Duportail Street, all while keeping an eye on the city's coffers, said Mayor David Rose.

The city is analyzing vacated staff positions, instead of filling them automatically, "to see if we can be more efficient," Rose said. "We want to ensure the best value for dollars spent."

West Richland is planning to build a wine effluent treatment facility that will also serve other food processing plants in the Red Mountain area of the city.

"It's in the design stage now," said Mayor Brent Gerry. "City staff are also working on finalizing designs and getting permits in place for recreational access to the Yakima River. That's a project I plan to see complete in my tenure."

The city is also considering several options for replacing the existing animal shelter and has already held a town hall meeting to solicit input from the public.

Gerry's also working to beautify his city by getting a vacant lot behind city hall turned into a community garden, he said.

Samantha Beck, 18, of Richland, was presented the 2014 Hughesman Award at the luncheon.

The award, a $1,000 scholarship from the Young Foundation, recognizes a youth, 21 and under, who demonstrates excellence, community involvement and volunteerism.

"Volunteering is a passion for me," said Beck, a senior at Richland High School.

She spent hundreds of hours in 2013 as a volunteer with Fields of Grace, a group which gleans farmers' fields and orchards to supply Tri-City area food banks. She also volunteered at several food banks.

Beck plans to attend Washington State University and study chemistry. Her parents are Gillian and Richard Beck of Richland.

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com

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